Master of Art + Design (First Class)
I completed a Master of Art + Design (Spatial) at Auckland University of Technology in 2012. I have been working as a designer and artist in, performance event and theatre for over six years, and have been the creative director for a range of large-scale projects including The History Boys at Sydney Opera House and Transforming Topographies as part of Auckland Art Gallery’s 5th Auckland Triennial (co-director). In 2014 I received a Vice-Chancellors Doctoral Scholarship to begin my PhD. My current work and research focuses on silence, temporality, space, language and performance.
Please see below for an outline on previous research projects.
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2011-2012 (Masters research)
During this period I focused on questions around the relationship between naming and identity. I asked how language might legitimise a space of performance, and whether the lie might be central to the status of performance. I wanted to consider what the role of the other is in relation to performance, and notions of witnessing. From these sub-themes the overarching concept emerged: Through relations of self and other, naming and language (spoken, written, visual), creative spaces of performance manifest that testify to conditions of truth. Ultimately this ‘question’ tested out truth in relation to performance for my on-going creative set and spatial design performance practice that was constantly interested in the spatio-temporal borders between self and others.
This research engaged the creative practices of filmmaking, photography, spatial installation and performance. This research was concerned with naming and identity as related to the photographic image, written and spoken word. The research was critically framed through Roland Barthes’ writing in ‘Camera Lucida’ (1980), Walter Benjamin’s essay ‘On Language as Such and on the Language of Man’ (1996) and through Jacques Derrida’s notion of deconstruction.
This project also touches on how domestic space and gender stereotypes condition the way we behave as an aside to my core research questions. The act of naming the child is closely linked to expressions of domesticity and Gaston Bachelard’s ‘The Poetics of Space’ (1994) provides insight with regards to both identity and domestic space. Bachelard asks us to encounter spaces that we inhabit daily, spaces that have become ordinary, in a new way. His notion that the spaces we live in shape our memories is extended in my practice to include spaces created via performance. I aim to interrogate how the temporal space of performance can fold the space the ‘other’ inhabits back and forth through recollection.
Name and gender are the first accepted indicators of identity according to institutionalised practices. I am haunted by the ideal woman, she who cooks, cleans, takes care of the children, she who always looks and smells immaculate and tantalising, she who puts herself last. I am interested in how images (photographs, film and memory) create in their making, a future tense that we must become (or are trapped into their becoming). Is it possible that in my name lies the answer to how my imaged identity has been created?
2010 (Honours research)
Are we ever not performing? Is there ever an outside to performance? What would that be? Where would it reside? What spatio-temporal condition could it suggest?
My research questions were framed partly through the theories of performativity that deal with the cultural identity of a subject as construed through language via Judith Butler and J.L. Austin. It was also framed through a philosophical lens in my discussion of the everyday through Michel De Certeau and his dealings with the social in relation to language. Both frameworks helped the research to evolve methods for critiquing my site of performance, particularly with its focus on commercial theatre, primarily through a spatial excavation of theatrical language that expanded into the gestures and props that fuse into the everyday. Ultimately, the research was geared toward the refinement of my artistic practice in connection and distinction to my role as a theatre set designer.
The question of there being an outside to performance is an entirely paradoxical notion, as in order to perform we assume there must be a state of not performing. It also seems to be inextricably linked with the absence or presence of a witness. Perhaps the outside of a performance lies in the witnessing of it as related to the unknown spatio-temporal condition that exists between presentational and representational modes of performance.
The notion of the witness is a very important and profound element of my work. This notion of the witness as related to performance goes back to the main point of cultural theory, that we get our identity from the outside, from the other. The other is what we don’t know and desire to know. In this sense, paradoxically identity/ performance is only ever constitutive of an outside. But what is inside to this outside is that there is possibly no getting outside of it. That is it precisely in this space between wanting to know the other (what is unfamiliar to us) and the notion that our identity is constructed by exterior forces (language, conventions, inherited beliefs, structures, systems) in which we are caught. This space is not knowable only insofar as it binds us doubly. We are forever, in a process of deciphering (trying to translate the unknowable/other to make sense to ourselves and to bring their identity into self-same certainty), but there is always an excess to us knowing the other, there is always more to know, more to decipher. We are caught inside a forever desire to know the unattainable, unknowable, ungraspable, that which is outside, this condition is excessive and therefore beyond containable.
My research questions reside, it seems, in an impasse, whereby performance exists outside of ourselves but also inside of ourselves wanting to know the other and translate the other through our own identity. The witness is what constitutes the legitimacy of performance, but the idea of the witness as it is emerging in my work, is a much more radical notion than what lies in conventional theatre ideology.
Perhaps, the outside of performance lies in the final lack of its trace? If a temporal performance takes place, and is witnessed but not formally documented, the point at which the performance ceases to exist (and hence we are able to be outside of it) is in the moment that the witnesses can no longer give testimonial to its occurrence. In death, are we outside performance? Are we then finally without witness?